City & Government

Bond measures up to voters in May

There’s several measures on the May ballot for Lane County voters to keep an eye on — and new faces volunteering for local districts, like school boards and fire, water or transportation.

In the Southern Willamette Valley, ballots will include candidates for South Lane School District, Springfield School District, Creswell School District, Pleasant Hill School District, Lane Community College, South Lane Fire & Rescue and Willamalane Park and Recreation District, among others.

Below is a brief introduction to each bond measure in the communities The Chronicle serves. 

In the upcoming weeks, The Chronicle will offer each candidate running for election the opportunity to write a guest column in addition to answering a Q&A, which will touch on the ballot measures outlined below, to be published in May. 

LCSO Jail and Youth Services Levy 

Question: Without increasing tax rate, shall County maintain jail, youth treatment beds levying $0.55/$1,000 assessed value for five years beginning FY2023/24?

If passed, the measure would maintain a minimum of 255 local jail beds for the five-year period, providing the Sheriff with improved ability to hold those arrested for violent felony offenses until their cases are resolved.

Levy renewal would also:

• Maintain investment in medical mental health services within the jail to help those in custody make positive improvements and build life skills in an effort to reduce repeat offenders. 

• Continue to provide counseling, secure treatment, and detention services for youth offenders.

County officials say the levy funds over half of the operational cost for the Lane County Jail, as well as counseling and other mental health services — helping maintain 255 usable jail beds, eight youth detention beds and eight youth treatment beds. 

It also funds 78% of the cost of mental health services provided within the jail.

“Our agency partners recognize that having a properly functioning jail is the hub of an effective public safety network,” Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold said. “Instead of being able to catch someone early in their criminality, connect them with a lawyer or a probation officer that can redirect them down a good path, we create a revolving door and a person continues down the negative path of criminality.” 

Today, the jail operates 367 beds and runs an innovative mental health program, aimed at supporting inmates. Harrold says he’s proud of how LCSO has changed the way we address who is in custody. 

“The criminal justice system is not well-designed to help people with a mental health crisis,” he said. “None of this would be possible without the 78% of our medical mental health contract that is paid for with the levy.” 

At 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the levy would draw in around $19 million a year and cost the average homeowner about $118 each year, based on a median assessed value of around $214,500. The renewal rate is the same as the current levy – so no additional cost will come to taxpayers. 

Creswell School Bond to repair, 

update facilities and improve safety

Question: Shall District update schools, safety, vocational training by issuing $18,210,000 general obligation bonds; estimated to maintain current bond levy rate? If the bonds are approved, they will be payable from taxes on property or property ownership.

Rate: The bond is estimated to continue the District’s current bond tax rate of $1.94 per $1,000 of assessed property value, due to an existing bond retiring. The bonds would be repaid over 21 years. Current bond levy rate is estimated not to increase because existing debt is retiring. 

If passed, the measure would update schools, increase vocational training and make other improvements. The District has been awarded a $4,000,000 state matching grant available only if the bonds are approved.

The bonds will be used to:

• Repair and update schools, including roofs, electrical systems, plumbing, HVAC systems, kitchen, flooring, exterior walls, mold and asbestos abatement, parking lots, improvements to sports facilities.

• Improve the learning environment by modernizing classrooms where needed, adding air conditioning, renovating unfinished classroom space.

• Increase safety and security by adding secured entry points, revamping security cameras, parking lot entry and exit ways to improve traffic flow, and installing an emergency generator.

• Increase access to vocational training, including adding Career and Technical Education classrooms.

• Build a school-based health center in remodeled District office space.

• Relocate the District office.

Creswell Superintendent Mike Johnson says the bond measure will help support the projected growth of the school district. 

“We’re trying to prepare our campuses for increased enrollment,” he said. “We’re looking at two things — one, how can we create sound infrastructures for the future? And two, how can we prepare for the growth that’s projected to come our way, of 200-300 more students in the next 10 years.” 

In 2019 and 2022, the district conducted a community-wide needs assessment and strategic planning processes with input from students, staff, parents, business owners and community members. The specific improvements outlined in the bond come from the survey, which identified a few areas for growth: infrastructure, creating an emergency reunifcation center at the high school, an increase in CTE program space and an all-encompassing health clinic to support families and students. 

“With these funds, we would be able to repair and update our schools,” he said. “We could increase access to vocational training, including adding career and technical education classrooms or vocational trades to teach 21st century career skills.” 

Creswell Water District 

Question: To determine if the district electors wish the district to continue or dissolve.

If passed, the district will be dissolved — currently, it owns and maintains a diversion channel that prevents water from Lynx Hollow Creek from entering Hills Creek and causing flooding. If the district is dissolved, the diversion channel and responsibility for its maintenance will be transferred to another entity; most likely a Lane County department. Property owners will become exclusively responsible for stream channel maintenance. 

Rate: $30/year per parcel. It would cease if the district were dissolved. 

According to Jim Fox, Creswell Water Control District treasurer, Hills Creek has a very low-gradient stream bed, which has caused flooding surrounding Creswell every year. 

“It’s difficult for it to drain just because there isn’t enough gravity to get the flow to run well,” Fox said. “People just tolerate it rather than fixing the problem.” 

This flooding occurs near Harrold Brother’s Dairy, and the old Bald Knob Mill pond, reducing value of farmland and making roads impassable, according to Fox. 

Working within their means, the district in recent years has been assisting landowners on an as-needed basis, splitting costs for owners to clear debris in order to prevent water from backing up and flooding property.

“There’s plenty of work we could do, we just don’t have the resources. We don’t have the public support that we need,” Fox said.

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